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Research highlights need for equity in hybrid work

Poly’s new Evolution of the Workplace report highlights the need for work equity and total meeting equality for hybrid workers, with those surveyed embracing anytime working and believing office culture has ‘changed forever’. But concerns over discrimination, career progression, and noise weigh on employees’ minds. Rob Lane finds out more

Poly has released a new report outlining the evolution of the workplace and changing employee attitudes, as we (hopefully) move away from Covid lockdowns. The Poly Evolution of the Workplace report analysed the findings of a survey of 7,261 hybrid workers from the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Poland and the United Arab Emirates, examining how attitudes and behaviours have evolved – whilst looking at everything from working patterns and culture, to frustration and noise, right down to what workers wear.

“Our research found that [58% of] workers felt that the rise in remote working has meant they are ‘always on’ and always available, leaving them unable to relax or switch off from work” explains Paul Clark, senior VP of EMEA sales at Poly. “And while many are enjoying the benefits of hybrid working – the work-life balance, lie ins, and family time – others are feeling side-lined and disconnected.

“For example, 52% think hybrid or home workers could be discriminated against or treated differently to employees in the office full-time. Equally, people are feeling anxious about the return to the office, with 42% admitting they will be prone to ‘noise rage’ if colleagues are too loud. Sadly, the younger generation – many of whom entered the workforce during all the upheaval – are feeling the strain particularly strongly. Of the 62% who reported that they have not been to their new office, 72% say the idea of going in is keeping them up at night. For hybrid working to be a success, these issues must be tackled head on. Companies need to continue to put their employees at the centre of all that they do and provide them with the tools to accomplish their jobs in this new environment.

Poly’s research suggests hybrid working is here to stay. 82% of respondents intend to spend at least
one day a week working from home in the future, with 54% planning to split their time evenly between office and home. One of the drivers for this shift is the emergence of ‘anytime working’ – whereby employees have greater autonomy over when they do their work – with over two third of employees (69%) saying the 9-5 has been replaced by anytime working. When asked about the benefits of working from home, the top three responses given were: avoiding lengthy commutes, achieving a better work-life balance and feeling less stressed. Similarly, when asked what they would miss about working from home, people highlighted lie ins, time with family and finishing on time.

However, while many workers have reaped the benefits, working from home has not been a smooth transition for everyone. Worryingly, the lines between anytime working and being ‘always on’ are blurring: more than half of workers (58%) felt that the rise in remote working has meant they are ‘always on’ and always available, leaving them unable to relax or switch off from work. Added to this, being expected to work outside of their hours was listed as the second biggest drawback of working from home – after having less fun with colleagues. The findings also show:

Difficulty collaborating, lack of IT support and lack of [AV] equipment to enable home working are listed within the top five drawbacks of working from home – suggesting many employees have not been provided with the right tools to work effectively

Nearly half (47%) said they worried about missing out on learning from peers and seniors when working from home

A further 52% think hybrid or home workers could be discriminated against or treated differently to employees in the office full-time

“Anytime working should not be confused with being always on,” adds Clark. “The organisations that promote a healthy work environment and empower anytime working will see a much happier and more productive workforce. This is especially important as we are experiencing the ‘Great Resignation’ phenomenon, where people across industries are leaving their jobs due to the pandemic. Businesses cannot afford to lose talent so must offer the best working experience possible to all its employees, no matter where they are located.”

The research suggests that there are very mixed feelings about the return to office. While many have missed the camaraderie and connection of seeing colleagues and clients, others are feeling anxious and worry their performance will suffer. What is evident is that for many, the changes of the past year are here to stay – with 64% of workers saying that office culture has ‘changed forever’. As a result, while many intend to return to the office, the role of the office and office etiquette are likely to evolve.

Despite the concerns, workers are looking forward to having more person-to-person interactions. Office banter, going for lunch with clients and office camaraderie are listed as the top three things workers miss about the office. The findings also highlight how the role of the office will evolve. When asked how people would see themselves using the office in the future, results tended to be practical and task oriented. The ‘top three reasons to go back into the office’ were collaborating with colleagues, attending meetings and access to better equipment and technology.

“To unlock the benefits of hybrid working, organisations need to keep people, technology and spaces front of mind,” concludes Clark. “Firstly, businesses need to understand employees’ personas and working styles. Secondly, they need to clearly define their future office – what spaces will be needed? Should we create more areas for quiet working or collaboration?
Doing so will allow organisations to better understand their technology requirements to help the workforce become happier, and more productive. Most importantly, this will ensure everyone has an equal experience, no matter where, when or how they work. This will allow everyone to reap the rewards and truly make hybrid ‘work’.”

You can access the full report here.